The thought of my girlfriend coming to visit my hometown all the way from Paris, France sent me into a frenzy of planning this month. Coming to the midwest after a summer in the city of lights seemed hardly spectacular (do I show her the QwickTrip slushie machine? Or maybe my local high school track field). However, as I pieced the trip together, I realized Minneapolis stands on its own two feet pretty well. So, here are some of my favorite places in the city that I think give you the quintessential Twin Cities experience.
Eats: While I’m no foodie, food usually piques my interest the most while I’m on vacation. Local eateries with specialties I couldn’t imagine back home always grab my heart (and my dollar). Here are a few of my favorites around Minneapolis.
Glam Doll Donuts – Start your day or, alternatively (thanks to their late hours), end your night with Glam Doll Donuts. Now serving in North East Minneapolis as well as its original location in Powderhorn, Glam Doll has funky decor, great donuts, and in the N.E. location – alcohol. I recommend you try the Femme Fatale and the Flirty Frenchie- what can I say, I’m a sucker for the French.
Victor’s 1959 Café – Leave your mark at Victor’s 1959 Café! Seriously. The walls and seats of this tiny corner café are scrawled with mementos and signatures of customers past. Cozy and bright, Victor’s is nestled in the middle of the Lyndale neighborhood of Minneapolis and serves authentic Cuban cuisine that warms the soul and hits the spot. Look out for the to die for seasonal specials and the hours, as the café closes in the afternoon.
Birchwood Café – While all the places mentioned on this list have a good amount of vegan and vegetarian options, Birchwood Café is where sustainability enthusiasts, local veggie lovers, and foodies come together. While the menu changes depending on the season’s fruits and vegetables, the options are consistently fresh and tasty. And while you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Dead Media, the tiny record shop across the street packed with albums and the occasional live show.
Pizza Lucé – Alternative culture is big in the cities, and one of the most prominent places to see it is at Pizza Lucé. The wait staff looks badass, the pizzas are good (and usually offer vegan and vegetarian options), and the ambience is jovial. With locations scattered across the city, you’ll have no problem finding a seat. I recommend the Korean Flank Steak pizza if it’s in season, but otherwise the Blue Dog is good as well- but beware of the bleu cheese breath!
Hard Times – If you’re down for a little grungier of a place, head to Hard Times Café in Seward. Frequented by punks and college students alike, Hard Times has some of the most ambiguously vegetarian meals I’ve ever had. Loyal omnivore and vegan friends alike question the meatless “meat” in the classic gyro. Open until 4 am, the café closes for a mysterious 2 hours every night, but fret not, at 6 am, the doors are open and the food and shelves of board games with mostly missing pieces are yours for the trying.
Sights: While I won’t tell you what to do, I can recommend you some cool places to do them.
Gold Medal Park – A loopy and hill structured park on the side of the Mississippi River gives a great view of the city and the Mill City ruins. Stay and chill for a picnic or even ice cream from the nearby Izzy’s Ice Cream. Also, a great place to dog spot/ pet.
Mall of America – Okay, a cliché for sure, but as a Bloomington resident for four years, showing someone a mall with a rollercoaster in it is kind of cool. The new arcade is a great place to stop by, as well as Lego Land, a site beloved by most and notorious in my family.
Walker Arts Center – While I’m a sucker for all of the arts museums in Minneapolis ( The Russian Museum? Underrated. The MIA? A classic.) I think the Walker has the most appeal for someone visiting from out of town. Free on Thursday nights as well as the first Saturday of the month, the exhibits seem ever changing, making it a cool trip for a Minneapolis resident as well. Make sure to take a stroll through the Sculpture Gardens as you’re leaving for a look at the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry with the nice backdrop of the basilica (and benches from Jenny Holzer to guide the way!!)
Events & Places: Okay, maybe I will tell you what to do.
I Like You – A store in North East Minneapolis full of Minnesotan knickknacks, it’s the perfect place to grab an alternative tourist token. Also, it’s only a hop and skip from Glam Doll, which is isn’t all the terrible as well. Personally, I love the Minnesota print works and its surely worth stopping by if you’re in the area.
Morning Yoga @ Lake Harriet – I feel as if I have written this towards night owls, but if you’re a morning bird, I recommend yoga at Lake Harriet in the summer and wish you would tell me your secret. Free to those who show up, this yoga has a 6:30 wake up call. However, you do get to watch the sun rise over the lake, which sort of makes it worth it.
Midnight Madness – A favorite of mine, Midnight Madness is the midnight rerun of movies at Uptown Theater. Including Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Room monthly, there are also other great flicks to catch depending on the week. The environment is always friendly and goofy and with alcohol sold only for the first 15 minutes of the movie- fun wet or dry.
The Book House in Dinkytown – Not to sound pretentious, but one of the only reasons I would tell a stranger to hang around Dinkytown, The Book House is an apartment sized space sprawling with used books. The organization is superb, the staff is friendly, and most importantly, the books are pretty cheap. It also doesn’t hurt to reduce your carbon footprint a bit by buying that Handmaiden’s Tale secondhand.
Minneapolis is a city I have grown to love, and now that I have, I wonder how I ever didn’t. I hope this little guide can make your time in the city at least a small bit more magical.
All the best,